The Forward on Climate Rally saw almost 40,000 Americans gather in solidarity to protest the Keystone XL Pipeline, which, if completed and used, scientists say, would effectively end the ability of the Earth to support human life.
The tens of thousands of people who came together in the frigid wind, warmed themselves with the burning inner outrage experienced by anyone who has both heard the facts about this proposed project and has a pulse. Organizers had clearly worked to harmonize protester outrage with what host Reverand Lennox Yearwood told me back stage was a sense of "Positivity. So the people know that, ‘Yes, We Can’ stop the Tarsands Pipeline."
The event was reminiscent of the Democratic National Convention. Only this time, the Occupy Wall Street protesters were part of the event and not protesting outside. Obama’s campaign theme music regularly filled the air with soaring notes and that unmistakably uplifting melody. Beautiful high gloss posters were distributed bearing a pro-environment tweak to the Obama blue-circle-with-red stripe-logo. Those lustrous posters sometimes made for strange bedfellows when juxtaposed with hand-made signs calling for “Massive Civil Disobedience” and others fed up and demanding much needed action.
Most of the people I spoke with had similar refrains; they voted for Obama, yet find his nod to addressing the current climate crisis incompatible with his stated goal of increasing domestic oil production and his call for expanded natural gas drilling. Others believe the current system of government is too corrupt too be addressed through what were once the traditional avenues to create change. Still others were conservatives, libertarians, or independents outraged and concerned for their children's future. Together, they marched from the Washington Monument, to the White House, unified in agreement that the Tar Sands pipeline is a disaster that must be stopped.
In the following video I speak with Van Jones from Rebuilding the Dream, author and activist Naomi Klein, and Sierra Club Director Mary Anne Hitt who all have strong words for President Obama:
When taken together with the next video of my conversation with retired police chief and Occupy Wall Street supporter Ray Lewis, the discordant sentiment of the protest is palpable. The elegant dance of protest-laden encouragement for President Obama to do the right thing, the decent thing and the moral thing, was artful and intelligent. Time will tell if it was effective.
Full Length interview with Naomi Klein below the fold.
Van Jones hit the nail on the head in this short segment during his CNN commentary about the debate. His remark was simple and straightforward.
Speaking to the overall debate and issues at hand, Jones said, "One of the things I think is difficult about the media is that we focus on the horse race aspect of this. There's a horserace aspect, but there's also a history aspect." He expanded that thought by saying, "This guy could be President. Paul Ryan could be President."
There's a scary thought, no? The man who thinks Supreme Court decisions are the whim of unelected judges and therefore not legitimate could ascend to the presidency.
Jones went on to admonish the media, saying "[Ryan] said sixty percent of Americans are takers, not makers. That's worse than the 47 percent. He said that Social Security is a Ponzi scheme, that it's socialism. It's important that he get vetted here."
I could not agree with Mr. Jones more, and that is one of the things I think Vice President Biden did so well in the debate. He didn't let Ryan get away with his earnest, boyish claims of crises and budget woes. He showed that Paul Ryan's knowledge of foreign policy is lacking and shallow. Yes, shallow. That was the word most often used to describe it. Rachel Maddow or one of the commentators with her said Ryan learned the material for the test without really understanding it. I'd say that's accurate.
On today's This Week With Mickey Mouse, a variety of well-heeled people join in a hearty chorus of "What Do The Simple Folk Do?". Isn't that nice!
JONES: Well, then why -- it's certainly not being revealed. But hold on a second. This is the kind of stuff I think that turns people off from politics. I mean, this is exactly the problem we have right now. Ordinary people don't care about this stuff. And the stuff that regular people care about more than anything is, you know, their houses. Right now, one third of the people who are watching this show, their homes are under water.
It used to be, they were talking about the good old days earlier on the show. It used to be when you signed that mortgage check, you were building wealth for your family. You got a third of Americans who are losing wealth, and in Washington, D.C., the big story that was missed, you got Ed DeMarco, a Bush administration holdover, who is still being held on to by Obama, who sits back and says, Fannie and Freddie are now--
STEPHANOPOULOS: He's the head of the Federal Housing Administration.
JONES: The Federal Housing Administration.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Oversees Fannie and Freddie. Fannie and Freddie came up with a report that said if they just reduced some of these mortgages and gave some mortgage relief and stopped overcharging people for their homes, America would save $1 billion in foreclosures and you keep people in their houses. This one bureaucrat says, no way, takes it off the table. That's wrong. That's hurting ordinary Americans. It's not even being talked about in Washington, D.C. President Obama should fire Ed DeMarco, get him out of there, but somebody in office is going to take care of the real issues. The American people can't continue to lose their shirts trying to get people to stay in their houses.
STEPHANOPOULOS: -- didn't do more about that? I know he disagrees, I know he disagrees with Ed DeMarco, but he didn't take action.
RATTNER: Well, look, the housing situation is one of the most complicated policy issues we have, because we all would like to do more for homeowners, but I think there's a feeling in America, which I understand, of sort of equity in the sense that someone who overborrowed, who took out a second mortgage, used it to buy a new television or consume, is now under water, is living next door to somebody who acted responsibly and didn't take out a second mortgage. And so this is a highly emotional issue in Washington.
What he means is, the "responsible" people who had well-paying jobs and enough inherited wealth that they didn't need to use their houses as ATMs to cover up the declining purchasing power of their paychecks.
Mike Huckabee was part of a particularly awful "This Week" panel Sunday morning, and when asked about Mitt Romney's remark that our economic problems in this country are all because we have too many "government workers," he doubled down.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Hold on one second. I'll ask the governor about this. What is wrong with jobs for teachers, firemen and police officers?
HUCKABEE: I can tell you. There's nothing wrong with it. My dad was a fireman. I love firemen jobs. But here's what you need. You need enough firemen to put out the fires. You don't arbitrarily go, hire firemen, policemen or teachers unless you have more kids in school. And what we need to be talking about is not hiring more teachers, but hiring better teachers and getting rid of the ones that don't teach. When 50 percent of the kids in Chicago, where Obama's campaign headquarters are located aren't even graduating, we need to be talking about improving graduation, not just increasing the number of public employees who in Chicago get $100,000 a year in salary and benefits.
JONES: Look, look, first of all, maybe I was raised wrong. I never heard of this threat to America called public employees. In my neighborhood, we called them teachers, we called them firefighters, we called them cops, we called them nurses, and we were taught to look up to them and to respect them. And for them now to be a punching bag, people like my father and my mother, who were public school teachers, who did not make $100,000 a year or whatever you just said and nothing near it, for them to become a punching bag is wrong.
Furthermore, I think we need to take a big step back here. When you have the amount of pain that's happening in the country, the Republican Party has not only been missing in action, they won't pass their own bills to help Americans right now. They won't pass their own ideas to help small businesses right now. Why? Because their gain will come when America has more pain. It's like having a life guard trying to help you--
STEPHANOPOULOS: You say they're rooting for failure?
JONES: I say they're rooting for failure. It's like having a life guard, Obama is a life guard trying to help people drowning. These guys are sitting back on the rocks hoping more people drown. That's wrong. It's morally wrong.
Lordy, Lordy, Lordy. "Aw Shucks" Huckabee, Lady Ann Coulter-Crazy, Van Jones and Ed Rendell on This Week with George Stephanopoulos.
Poor Ann. She starts blathering inanity, Van Jones and Ed Rendell jump on her statement and she clutches her pearls. "All you mean boys are interrupting me! Please, someone help poor little me!"
But I also love when she says that Bill Clinton is very frustrated with the "far left" President Obama. Host George Stephanopoulos, of course, remains silent when the proper response would be hearty laughter. But he adheres to the Very Serious Journalist Code of The View From Nowhere.
And she also asks where are the Democrats upset about drone attacks when we were all howling about everything George Bush did! (You'll have to excuse Lady Ann, she doesn't get out much. Her servants bring her booze now.)
I also love the part where she waxes rhapsodic about Mitt Romney and his magical touch (I get an icky feeling just thinking about it):
COULTER: Then, at Bain -- I mean, about, what 75 percent, 80 percent of the businesses that were going to bankrupt, he does turn around. He's a green eyeshade kind of guy. He will do what no president, not even Ronald Reagan, has ever done, and that is go through the budget and cut the spending. And there's a lot to be cut.
And the Olympics, which was also going bankrupt and is an enormous business. And the Midas touch man comes in and turns around this nearly bankrupt institution. It is not just Bain. It is everything he touches.
And then she wriggled erotically in her chair. Okay, maybe not, but it felt like it.
Yes, the Olympics were going bankrupt until Mitt glommed onto $1.5 billion in FEDERAL MONEY to cover himself in glory. And a lot of that money went to pay off corrupt organizers who were caught taking bribes - just to make them go away. (Several of them have since resurfaced as Romney campaign donors).
Hounddog Huckabee also says this, with a completely straight face!
HUCKABEE: You know, I like -- anybody he picks I believe is going to be the result of a very thoughtful and methodical choice. The one thing I admire most about Mitt Romney is that he is not a guy that just acts out of some impetuous visceral reaction. He's very thoughtful, methodical.
He will make what would really be a very careful business decision. And whoever he selects, I believe, will be the result of a very thoughtful process. And we'll all get behind him as a Republican.
Yes, Mitt Romney is a robot, and the Republicans just don't care!
It was only a matter of time before people got wise to ALEC. It's just too bad it's taken as much time as it has. But after the Trayvon Martin case and subsequent linkage of ALEC to the Stand Your Ground laws, it's starting to get enough attention to cause the Coca-Cola company to withdraw their corporate sponsorship of the organization, thanks to a Color of Change campaign to draw their attention to ALEC's efforts to disenfranchise Black voters nationwide.
This victory has made Dana Loesch very, very angry. So angry that she lit into Van Jones on her radio show Thursday, despite the fact that Van Jones has not been at the helm of Color of Change for some time. According to Media Matters, Dana went on a rant against Van Jones over the ALEC action, calling him a "Marxist, 911 Truther, Cop Killer-Supporter".
It so happens that Van Jones' latest book, "Rebuild the Dream" came out this week, so Loesch's little rant on Jones just raises his profile and sells more books. I think that's awesome. Dana's little spew doesn't touch Van Jones, but it makes her look like an idiot, and by extension, CNN.
CNN's continued support of Loesch despite her unwarranted and irrational attacks on Soledad O'Brien, Michelle Obama, and now Van Jones makes them look like round fools. They were stupid to hire her, and dumber still to keep her. Based on what I've heard from her this week, she's auditioning to replace Rush Limbaugh when he loses all his sponsors. Or something.
Here's a reality check for Dana. Does she really think anyone but the True Believers of the Right Wing will believe her crap about a guy who just published a book that says this:
There is reason for hope. The United States remains a rich nation—the wealthiest and most inventive in the history of the world. Global competition and technological advances pose challenges for American workers, but we should always remember that the proverbial pie is bigger than ever today—and still growing. As a nation, we are getting richer; our GDP is still greater than it has ever been. The problem is not that the pie is shrinking; it is that working families are taking home smaller slices of it, as wealth and income are concentrated upward. It will take smart policy, better business practices, and community-driven innovation, but we still have the power to reclaim, reinvent, and renew the American Dream.
On This Week, there was a panel discussion on the Trayvon Martin case, as there probably was on every Sunday show this week. It's somewhat ironic that most shows left the discussion to white men, who naturally understand what it feels like to walk down the street, unarmed, with some candy and iced tea and be looked at sideways like they're about to start a riot or rob the little old lady down the street. At least ABC saw fit to have Van Jones join their panel to talk about the Trayvon Martin case.
As it turned out, the discussion was less important than the illustration in many ways. Here's what George Will had to say:
WILL: Well, precisely. I mean, this is why we have what's called due process. We have institutions that are juries and grand juries and prosecutors who are supposed to look at the evidence and come up with the answer.
The root fact is, though, Mr. Jones, that about 150 black men are killed every week in this country. And 94 percent of them by other black men.
And this is -- this episode has been forced into a particular narrative to make it a white-on-black when "The New York Times" rather infamously now decided that Mr. Zimmerman was a white Hispanic, a locution (ph) that was not -- was rare until then, and I think they abandoned by Friday.
Before I get to Mr. Jones' response to this, I want to highlight why this is exactly the problem. You have George Will walking completely past the facts in THIS case in order to justify the frightened white guy shooting the unarmed black guy because there are so many cases where blacks kill blacks.
There is no equivalent there. Yes, it's tragic that there are killings like that, but it misses the entire point of the Trayvon Martin case and makes a hollow, intellectually dishonest attempt to ignore the fact of racial profiling and racial judgments made every day by cops and citizens alike. It ignores the "otherness" factor, which Van Jones brought right back around to the forefront, thankfully.
JONES: Well, let me say, you know, this -- I think this hits pretty close to home. You know, I'm -- as an African-American parent, I have two boys. I think I'm going to have to go broke dressing them in tuxedos every day so they can walk down the streets to buy a Snickers bar or Skittles. I don't -- the standard just seems to keep up and up.
This kid was not in a gang. He was not gang involved. And yet somehow somebody saw him, and, you know, let's give Zimmerman the benefit of the doubt. Let's assume that he was trying to do something good.
Let's assume he was trying to be his brother's keeper, but for some reason, when he saw this young man, this child, he didn't see his brother, he saw the other. We've got to look at ourselves about this. Now, this does not take away from any other problems that you're talking about. But this is disturbing.
As a black parent, I don't know how to protect my sons. And I think that the other thing is that when you are a victim of a crime, if something happens to your child, the only upside is that the police are going to be on your side.
If your child dies at the hands of somebody who's armed -- until now, here I am as a black parent, I got to dress my kid in a tuxedo and if he gets shot, I don't know if the cops are on my side.
That's the essence of it right there. How many of us who are white parents can say with a straight face that as white parents, we don't know how to protect our sons? How many white parents get blamed for their kids being in trouble because they're wearing a hoodie? How many white parents sit down with their kids and have The Talk about how to behave if they're stopped by cops or an angry white person? How many?
Seeing a connection between the so-called "Shoot First" laws passed with the support of the American Legislative Exchange Council and the National Rifle Association, a group of progressive organizations is calling upon ALEC's funders to dump the conservative group before more harmful laws are passed. Crooks and Liars previously reported on the connection between "Shoot First" laws and ALEC and the NRA.
The story of Trayvon Martin is, first and foremost, a tragedy for his family, and our hearts go out to them. It’s also about things that need to change, including how powerful interests use their superior resources to distort the processes of government — in this case a well-funded private group, fueled by donations from big corporations: the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC.
We want to know why major U.S. corporations support ALEC, which, working with the National Rifle Association, helped write and promote around the country the law that might allow Trayvon Martin’s killer to go free. So Republic Report, along with Color of Change, the Center for Media and Democracy, and Van Jones’ organization, Rebuild the Dream, just sent those companies a letter asking them to stop supporting and financing ALEC.
The buzz is that President Barack Obama is pushing hard for a deal with the big banks over the foreclosure crisis in advance of the State of the Union address on Tuesday. Most observers are afraid that the deal will be too small and that the banks will get a slap on the wrist despite playing a major role in creating the financial crisis that led to a recession.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka joined a growing chorus calling for a rejection of such a small deal and calling for an investigation of the banks over potential fraud and illegal activity:
We need to hold banks accountable for the fraudulent practices that brought about the worst economic crisis since the Depression. State Attorneys General have been investigating bank fraud, and these critical investigations must not be undermined by a premature and inadequate settlement. We call on the administration to reject any deal that insulates banks from full responsibility.
We commend state Attorneys Generals like New York’s Eric Schneiderman and Delaware’s Beau Biden for their leadership and courage in calling for a real investigation and relief on a scale that helps the millions of homeowners who face a new wave of foreclosures.
The economy is currently weighed down by $750 billion in negative home equity, so relief on a massive scale is needed to lift home values and stimulate the economy by increasing consumer demand. A comprehensive settlement must force banks to write down underwater mortgages. A sum significantly larger than the rumored $25 billion is needed for the economy to grow and create jobs.
Specifically, the administration must stand strong against the Big Banks and insist on:
1. A full and thorough investigation into problems tied to the residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS) market, and
2. A guaranteed minimum amount of money set aside for reducing the mortgage principal of “underwater” homeowners in key states impacted by the foreclosure crisis.
This is an opportunity for the administration to demonstrate leadership and show that it has the political will to do what’s right for homeowners and right for our economy.
On a conference call today launching the new "Contract for the American Dream," Van Jones said that the American people have more wisdom about what's going on in the country than those inside the beltway.
More than 131,000 Americans submitted ideas for the platform, more than 1600 house meetings were held and more than 25,000 ideas were submitted. Of those ideas, the ten most popular were included in the contract. Compare that to the right-wing Contract From America, in which only 50,000 people submitted ideas and only 800 house meetings were held. This disparity was despite the fact that the Contract for the American Dream did not get a big push from Fox News (or any equivalent) and there wasn't a big funding push from anyone like the Koch brothers.
"This movement is real. It's big. It's growing," Jones said. The movement is already active in every congressional district in the country. Jones said that what we need now is for the majority of Americans who agree with the contract need to stand up and speak out for the mainstream American values it represents. These values are what helped make the twentieth century "the American Century." He points out that while both parties have responded to the tea party, that group only represents 10-15 percent of the country. The Rebuild the Dream movement represents 70 percent.
Rep. Jan Schakowsky said that the two biggest problems we face right now are creating jobs and stopping the disappearance of the middle class, the fact that the American dream is slipping through people's fingers. She said that further cuts to federal spending will kill more jobs and make the economy worse. The solution, Schakowsky argues, is to grow our way out of the economic troubles we have -- to have a robust economy, we have to have a robust middle class. And the middle class needs jobs.
She is introducing legislation that represents the contract, including the Emergency Jobs to Restore the American Dream Act, which would create 2.2 million jobs over two years that meet critical community needs, and the Fairness in Taxation Act that would create a new 45 percent tax bracket for those who make more than $1 million each year and a 49 percent tax bracket for those who make more than $1 billion each year. She said this bill would raise $800 billion over ten years and would require the richest Americans to pay their fair share.
Economist Dean Baker said it amazes him that the very people that got us into the trouble we face now are in charge of solving the problems they created. He said that it is the economic collapse -- not excessive spending -- that led to huge deficits and that to fix the deficit, we have to get the economy going again. The contract does just that, in his opinion, and is consistent with our successful responses to economic downturns in American history. His real fear, if we don't get things moving in the right direction again, is that there could be people in their 30s, 40s and 50s who may never work again in their lifetimes.
MoveOn's Justin Ruben says that his group's supporters are on board with this agenda. He doesn't think that the people in D.C. will take the plan seriously at first, although most economists would say that the plan makes sense. He's calling on MoveOn supporters to do the legwork to change the minds of members of Congress by talking the contract up at town hall meetings and in visit to congressional offices.
Also on board is the Center for Community Change, led by Jeff Parcher. He says that the economy doesn't have to be the way it is today. "We have enough, we are the richest, most under-taxed country in the developed world," he added. Certain members of our society are not contributing their fair share and the key is to change the conversation in Washington.
We, the American people, promise to defend and advance a simple ideal: liberty and justice . . . for all. Americans who are willing to work hard and play by the rules should be able to find a decent job, get a good home in a strong community, retire with dignity, and give their kids a better life. Every one of us – rich, poor, or in-between, regardless of skin color or birthplace, no matter their sexual orientation or gender – has the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That is our covenant, our compact, our contract with one another. It is a promise we can fulfill – but only by working together.
Today, the American Dream is under threat. Our veterans are coming home to few jobs and little hope on the home front. Our young people are graduating off a cliff, burdened by heavy debt, into the worst job market in half a century. The big banks that American taxpayers bailed out won’t cut homeowners a break. Our firefighters, nurses, cops, and teachers – America’s everyday heroes – are being thrown out onto the street. We believe:
AMERICA IS NOT BROKE: America is rich – still the wealthiest nation ever. But too many at the top are grabbing the gains. No person or corporation should be allowed to take from America while giving little or nothing back. The super-rich who got tax breaks and bailouts should now pay full taxes – and help create jobs here, not overseas. Those who do well in America should do well by America.
AMERICANS NEED JOBS, NOT CUTS: Many of our best workers are sitting idle while the work of rebuilding America goes undone. Together, we must rebuild our country, reinvest in our people and jump-start the industries of the future. Millions of jobless Americans would love the opportunity to become working, tax-paying members of their communities again. We have a jobs crisis, not a deficit crisis.
To produce this Contract for the American Dream, 131,203 Americans came together online and in their communities. We wrote and rated 25,904 ideas. Together, we identified the 10 most critical steps to get our economy back on track and restore the American Dream:
10 CRITICAL STEPS TO GET OUR ECONOMY BACK ON TRACK
I. Invest in America's Infrastructure: Rebuild our crumbling bridges, dams, levees, ports, water and sewer lines, railways, roads, and public transit. We must invest in high-speed Internet and a modern, energy-saving electric grid. These investments will create good jobs and rebuild America. To help finance these projects, we need national and state infrastructure banks.
II. Create 21st Century Energy Jobs: We should invest in American businesses that can power our country with innovative technologies like wind turbines, solar panels, geothermal systems, hybrid and electric cars, and next-generation batteries. And we should put Americans to work making our homes and buildings energy efficient. We can create good, green jobs in America, address the climate crisis, and build the clean energy economy.
III. Invest in Public Education: We should provide universal access to early childhood education, make school funding equitable, invest in high-quality teachers, and build safe, well-equipped school buildings for our students. A high-quality education system, from universal preschool to vocational training and affordable higher education, is critical for our future and can create badly needed jobs now.
IV. Offer Medicare for All: We should expand Medicare so it's available to all Americans, and reform it to provide even more cost-effective, quality care. The Affordable Care Act is a good start and we must implement it -- but it's not enough. We can save trillions of dollars by joining every other industrialized country -- paying much less for health care while getting the same or better results.
V. Make Work Pay: Americans have a right to fair minimum and living wages, to organize and collectively bargain, to enjoy equal opportunity, and to earn equal pay for equal work. Corporate assaults on these rights bring down wages and benefits for all of us. They must be outlawed.
VI. Secure Social Security: Keep Social Security sound, and strengthen the retirement, disability, and survivors' protections Americans earn through their hard work. Pay for it by removing the cap on the Social Security tax, so that upper-income people pay into Social Security on all they make, just like the rest of us.
VII. Return to Fairer Tax Rates: End, once and for all, the Bush-era tax giveaways for the rich, which the rest of us -- or our kids -- must pay eventually. Also, we must outlaw corporate tax havens and tax breaks for shipping jobs overseas. Lastly, with millionaires and billionaires taking a growing share of our country's wealth, we should add new tax brackets for those making more than $1 million each year.
VIII. End the Wars and Invest at Home: Our troops have done everything that's been asked of them, and it's time to bring them home to good jobs here. We're sending $3 billion each week overseas that we should be investing to rebuild America.
IX. Tax Wall Street Speculation: A tiny fee of a twentieth of 1% on each Wall Street trade could raise tens of billions of dollars annually with little impact on actual investment. This would reduce speculation, "flash trading," and outrageous bankers' bonuses -- and we'd have a lot more money to spend on Main Street job creation.
X. Strengthen Democracy: We need clean, fair elections -- where no one's right to vote can be taken away, and where money doesn't buy you your own member of Congress. We must ban anonymous political influence, slam shut the lobbyists' revolving door in D.C., and publicly finance elections. Immigrants who want to join in our democracy deserve a clear path to citizenship. We must stop giving corporations the rights of people when it comes to our elections. And we must ensure our judiciary's respect for the Constitution. Together, we will reclaim our democracy to get our country back on track.
Not to be outdone, and never one to avoid recycling an old idea if possible, Newt Gingrich is trying to create a new crowdsourced Contract With America via Facebook. It's called Team 10, as in the Tenth Amendment, the Holy Grail for right-wingers who hate shared responsibility and shared sacrifice.